Investigation into 'shocking' conditions at Norfolk's largest duck farm
PUBLISHED: 17:27 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:58 16 December 2019
The company which runs Norfolk's largest duck farm has launched an investigation into claims that birds were carried by their necks causing breaks, given limited water and limited space.
Cameras placed in the farms by Animal Justice Project, in October and November this year, revealed what it claims are "shocking" conditions at two Gressingham duck farms near Thetford.
The farm produces more than half of the ducks killed in the festive period, eight million out of 15 million, in what the project calls a "miserable existence". Gressingham adopted Red Tractor standards in 2010 and supplies ducks to leading supermarkets.
The investigation claimed;
*Sheds without open water, housing between 6,500-12,000 ducks. In one shed there were 6,500 birds, there were 50 drinkers, meaning 130 birds per drinker.
*Each bird had two foot square floor space.
*Many ducks and ducklings pedalling on their backs in distress and 'spraddle leg', which is a result of tendons forcing the legs apart.
*Lame ducks were seen by workers and then ignored.
*Workers grabbing ducks by the neck and carried through the sheds before breaking their necks when throwing them onto the flock.
*Constant lighting for 47 hours going against Red Tractor regulations and bio-security measures were poor with workers not wearing gloves or overalls.
But Gressingham Foods has refuted these claims and said animal welfare is a top priority.
A spokesman said: "There are a limited number of images and comments that are not representative of the high standards expected of our farms, these will be fully investigated in conjunction with external auditors and the appropriate action taken to ensure immediate improvements.
"The welfare of our birds is an absolute priority. We work to the highest standards in hygiene, bio-security and animal welfare across all our farms. All Gressingham Foods farms are subject to regular internal and external audits and are under veterinary supervision.
"Our ducks are reared free-to-roam in large barns with natural light, fresh air, access to water for preening, access to fresh drinking water and feed throughout the day, we also apply a fresh bedding of straw every day."
The findings have led Animal Justice Project and Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch to call for a ban on duck farming.